Someone tweeted about this video the other day. The videos title is "2 Year Old Genius - Part 1 (World Capitals)". One of the comments made on the video was "prodigy, not a genius. a prodigy is someone who learns abnormally fast the things that are already known, a genius discovers new things." I am not going to talk about the difference between prodigy and geniuses – the commenter sort of nailed it in a sentence.
Here is what I thought was fascinating – lots of comments about how amazing this child is. But I wonder, if the child was able to match football teams with their cities, or pictures of dinosaurs with their names, would we be as impressed? Probably not. I have seen 2-year-olds do both things, and my reaction is "how cute." A child does this with country capitals and we are amazed. Similarly, if he were to do this with countries and currencies, we would think he was a genius, or intelligent or gifted. All of these words mean something different, but in America, we see them as sort of synonyms.
We value some information – country and state capitals (the 2-year-old can nail both Jeopardy categories), and other information – sports teams associated with mascots, for instance – we think of as more trivial.
If we had a child in school that was flunking a subject, we would rather they flunk art than English, social studies rather than math. And perhaps this has to do with how this information may help us in our future. Though I am a little fuzzy on how knowing state capitals will help us in business.
I also remember that when I was in elementary school, if a girl did not do well in English (I think it was called reading or language arts, actually), you could see panic on the teacher's faces. If a boy fell behind in reading, it was a bit more acceptable. Similarly if a girl did not do well in science, that was okay as well. And, actually, doing too well in science was social suicide. That was a boy's class.
In school, doing well did not automatically mean that you would do well in the "real world." I mean, the construct for school through high school and much of college focuses on individual effort. Although, there were a few classes where team-oriented work was graded, it was rare (and not done very precisely). How many had to work on a project with a partner, and the smarter of the two did practically the whole project so that he/she would get a grade he/she was used to getting?
I like school movies, or education movies. You know, like "Lean on Me", "Good Will Hunting", "Mr. [what's his name's] Opus". These movies inspire me. I don't watch a 2-year-old reciting state capitals and get chills. Just does not do it for me. But if the child could read at two – wow, I would be impressed. Or if the child could change the oil in my car, that would be something to see. I mean, they are short enough and generally don't mind getting dirty – but I am sure people might be upset, especially if he/her made his allowance by changing the oil for neighbors. But it would be useful, no arguments there.
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